Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Brief History of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception

Emily Siegel '14

Since the start of Rosemont College, there has been an obvious need for a campus chapel. Initially a makeshift chapel was set up in a room of Main Building. Then, in 1926, the chapel was moved to the basement of the recently completed Gertrude Kistler Memorial Library. Mother Mary Ignatius Carroll, SHCJ, second college president, was nicknamed “Ignatius the Builder” for her devotion to grow Rosemont’s campus saw it her duty to build a chapel. After struggling through the Great Depression, everyone on campus strove to see M.M. Ignatius’ dream actualized. 

Mother Mary Ignatius Carroll, SHCJ
The College finally received permission to construct a crypt in 1939 with hopes that it would eventually become a chapel after making numerous pleas for consent. M.M. Ignatius made the voyage to the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus’ motherhouse in Rome and received permission for an ENTIRE chapel. Sadly, she did not survive the voyage back; however her dream for a Rosemont College Chapel was accomplished. On March 19, 1940, ground was broken, presided over by Cardinal Dennis Dougherty, Archbishop of Philadelphia, and Mother Mary Cleophas Foy, SHCJ, the College’s president. The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception was completed and dedicated on January 9, 1941.

The building was completed by Philadelphia Architects, Henry D. Dagit & Sons, while Matthew McCloskey & Company were builder and general contractors. The Chapel was constructed in a cruciform shape, set on the traditional east-west axis. The exterior walls are a combination of local Foxcraft stone, trimmed with Indiana limestone. The roof is constructed of steel and concrete slabs covered with Vermont slate in shades of grey and green. Above the entry to the vestibule there is a limestone statue of the Immaculate Conception. The tower houses the Chapel bell, which was a gift from Miss Mary Clare, friend, benefactor, and trustee to the College. 

The outer doors are of oak and just above the front door is a bas-relief representing the Descent of the Holy Ghost.   The interior walls are limestone and the construction is based on the stone vaulting of the centuries old cathedrals and churches in Europe. The main altar was originally located at the back wall of the apse but was later moved, in 1969, to be more central following the changes made to churches and chapels by the Second Vatican Council. The Chapel’s crypt, or basement, was named St. Joseph’s Hall, and now houses offices and Campus Ministry. 

The stained glass windows have always been considered one of the most glorious parts of the Chapel, if not all of campus. The windows were designed and produced by the Willet Stained Glass Studios, in Germantown, PA. The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception is among the few in America to focus on the depictions of female saints. The sisters involved with the selection of the saints all considered how each depiction would impact the lives of students to come. 

For more information on the history of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, arrange an appointment by emailing Stop by the Gertrude Kistler Memorial Library and view  more photos displayed by the Rosemont Archives. Also, don’t forget to attend the Sunday, January 25th event, “The Windows of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception,” beginning at 3 p.m. to learn more about the Windows’ stories, imagery, and meanings.

Library Closing at 11:00 PM January 20-22

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Library will be closing at 11:00PM from Tuesday, January 13, through Thursday, January 15, 2015, rather than at the usual time of 2:00AM. We hope to resume regular hours next week. We apologize for any inconvenience.